Season 7, Episode 6

What teachers can learn from incarcerated youth, with Hilderbrand Pelzer III

In this episode, we take on the difficult topic of literacy education in the American juvenile justice system. Susan is joined by Hilderbrand Pelzer III, who discusses his experience as an educational leader in the Philadelphia prison system. Pelzer talks about what he saw and learned—and explains why he advocates for aspiring teachers to work with incarcerated youth. This passionate and moving discussion breaks down the myths surrounding literacy’s relationship with juvenile incarceration and also leaves listeners with advice on how to become more involved in their own communities.

Meet our guest(s):

Hilderbrand Pelzer III

In his over three decades of experience, Hilderbrand Pelzer III has earned a stellar reputation as an award-winning educator and inspirational speaker. His leadership in the education field began when he became Philadelphia’s youngest high school principal in the early 2000s. His greatest accomplishment—in a career that has included leading five different schools—was in one of the largest prison systems in the United States in Philadelphia. There, Pelzer led a pivotal shift toward higher expectations for all incarcerated youth by demonstrating how much these students are capable of learning. Leveraging these unique lessons, Pelzer teaches his audiences how to raise expectations for all students.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“These are real stories about children living their [lives] unable to read. It’s not data. They’re telling you they’re in a situation of incarceration and they’ve figured that their life is over as a result of not being taught in school.” —Hilderbrand Pelzer III

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